waterfront housing development

Top 15 Places In Florida To Buy Vacation Homes

Molly Grace8-Minute Read
February 03, 2021

If you can swing it, owning vacation property can be a great investment in your future happiness for many summer vacations and winter migrations to come.

Florida has always been a popular spot for dedicated vacationers and snowbirds alike, and it appears that this trend has only gotten stronger in the past year.

In 2020, interest in buying a second home in Florida went up 4.31%, according to Rocket Mortgage® application data, with much of this growth driven by Florida natives, New Yorkers and Michiganders – a trend we’ve seen throughout the last decade.

Let’s take a dive into the trends we noticed in our data analysis, what they might indicate and which spots in Florida were the most popular for vacation home buyers in 2020.

The Top 15 Counties For Purchasing Vacation Homes

Top 15 Counties in Florida for Vacation Homes by 15% of People Buying Homes

Here are the areas that were most popular with vacation home mortgage applicants looking to buy in Florida in 2020.

15. Pasco County

  • Location: New Port Richey area, north of Tampa and Clearwater
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 20%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 13%

Pasco County includes New Port Richey, a coastal city on the Gulf side of the state. The area has seen a year-over-year increase in mortgage applications for second homes of 20% as home prices edge up; the median sale price in December 2020 was $248,464, up 13% from $220,000 in 2019.

14. Manatee County

  • Location: Bradenton area, south of Tampa
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 9%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 11%

Manatee County includes Bradenton, another Gulf-side coastal city. Year-over-year second home mortgage applications are up in this county, as are median home prices. In 2019, the median sale price was $292,897; in 2020, it was $325,910.

13. Polk County

  • Location: Lakeland area, inland of Tampa
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: -17%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 10%

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the top 15 places for vacation home buyers is an inland county, located to the east of Tampa. Polk County is home to the city of Lakeland.

Its inland status may be one of the reasons this area saw a decrease in mortgage applications for second homes in 2020. In spite of this, it still remains a popular choice for buyers and has seen steady growth in home value. In 2019, the median sale price was $214,203, and in 2020 it rose to $236,549.

12. Hillsborough County

  • Location: Tampa area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 9%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 13%

Hillsborough County is home to the city of Tampa and located on the coast of Tampa Bay, Florida’s largest open-water estuary.

A popular pick for vacationers and permanent settlers alike, this area maintained strong and growing interest from vacation home buyers in 2020.

In 2019, the median sale price for homes was $248,211. In 2020, it was $279,324.

11. Brevard County

  • Location: Palm Bay area, east of Orlando
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 6%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 13%

Located on the Atlantic Coast side of the state, Brevard County, which includes the city of Palm Bay, has seen a fair increase in second home purchase interest and a good amount of home value growth.

In 2020, the median sale price for homes was $264,767 – up from $234,943 in 2019.

10. Miami-Dade County

  • Location: Miami area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 6%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 23%

Miami-Dade County and the vibrant city of Miami saw a lot of growth from 2019 – 2020, but it might not all be good news for buyers who are looking for a deal.

While vacation home interest saw some growth year-over-year, the real standout was the increase in sale price. In 2019, the median sale price was $300,075. In 2020, it reached $368,989. This makes Miami-Dade County the most expensive area to purchase out of all the counties on our list.

9. Orange County

  • Location: Orlando area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: -18%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 10%

Interest appears to be down in Orange County, home to Orlando (and several major tourist destinations). Though mortgage applications for second homes were down 18% compared to 2019, the median sale price increase was on-par with the average.

In 2019, homes were selling for around $280,480. In 2020, that number increased to $309,166.

8. Volusia County

  • Location: Daytona Beach area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 39%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 10%

Another Atlantic-side coastal area, Volusia County – which includes Daytona Beach – has seen a huge increase in interest year-over-year – the largest increase on our top 15 list – while managing to keep sale price increases relatively low. In 2019, the median price was around $211,527. In 2020, it reached $232,067.

7. Charlotte County

  • Location: Port Charlotte area, north of Fort Myers
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: -17%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 10%

The number of people who want to buy a second home in Charlotte County, where the community of Port Charlotte resides, seems to have declined in 2020.

Median sale price growth is on-par with many other areas on the list. In 2020, the median price was $250,000, up from 2019’s $227,581.

6. Pinellas County

  • Location: Clearwater and St. Petersburg area, east of Tampa
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: -7%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 13%

Interest is also down a bit in Pinellas County, which is surrounded on its eastern, western and southern sides by both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

In spite of decreased interest, prices grew in 2020 from their 2019 numbers. In 2019, you could purchase a home here for a median of $251,986. In 2020, that number rose to $285,334.

5. Broward County

  • Location: Fort Lauderdale area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 17%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 14%

Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale, has experienced a lot of year-over-year growth, both in mortgage applications for second homes and median sale price.

In 2019, the median sale price in Broward County was $280,000. In 2020, it was $317,765.

4. Palm Beach County

  • Location: West Palm Beach and Boca Raton area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 10%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 20%

Home to West Palm Beach and famously ritzy Boca Raton, this Atlantic-side county experienced a decent increase in vacation home purchase interest and a significant bump in median sale price from 2019 – 2020.

In 2019, the median home price here was $294,728. In 2020, it rose to $354,307, making it nearly as expensive as the most expensive city in the top 15, Miami-Dade County.

3. Sarasota County

  • Location: Sarasota area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 5%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 16%

For our number 3 spot we need to head back over to the Gulf side, where Sarasota County (and its namesake city) reside. While second home mortgage application increases were fairly lackluster here, prices jumped up quite a bit.

In 2020, the median sale price was $324,571. In 2019, it was $280,498.

2. Collier County

  • Location: Naples and Marco Island area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 26%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 14%

Beautiful Collier County, home to Naples and Marco Island, accounted for the second-largest increase in vacation home purchase applications from 2019 – 2020 out of our top 15 counties. It also experienced a slightly above-average increase in home sale prices.

In 2019, the median sale price was $291,250. In 2020, it was $332,000.

1. Lee County

  • Location: Fort Myers and Cape Coral area
  • Vacation Home Mortgage Application Growth: 8%
  • Median Sale Price Increase From 2019 – 2020: 15%

Our top county for mortgage applications on vacation homes, Lee County, home to Fort Myers and Cape Coral, saw a modest increase in application interest in 2020 and a slightly above-average increase in home prices.

In 2019, the median sale price was $230,309. In 2020, it reached $265,774.

Where Are These Buyers Coming From?

% of People buying Florida Vacation Homes by State

Florida is a popular second home spot for buyers from all around the country, but there were a few standouts in our data when it comes to buyer state of origin.

The largest share of Florida vacation home purchase applicants came from within the state, making up 18% of all applications for second homes in Florida in 2020. More Floridians showed interest in purchasing vacation property last year compared to 2019, with an 11% year-over-year increase in applications.

New Yorkers represented the second largest group, making up 14% of all applicants. However, we only saw a 1% year-over-year increase from 2019 to 2020. So, it appears that demand has remained fairly steady with this group.

In the third spot is Michiganders, who made up just 7% of the overall group and saw a 5% decrease in interest from 2019.

The remaining top states of origin were Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts and California.

Out of the top 10 states, Georgia and Illinois both saw the largest year-over-year increase in applications, with a 20% increase in applications for each state.

Though New Jersey was one of the top states for second home mortgage applications in Florida, making up 5% of the overall share, New Jerseyans experienced a pretty significant decline in interest, with the number of applications dropping 28% from 2019 to 2020.

Increased Interest Appears To Be Driving Price Growth

There appears to be a correlation between increases in price and increases in vacation home mortgage applications, which could indicate that vacation homes may be playing a part in driving up home prices in certain markets.

Primary Home Purchases Are Way Down

It’s not all sunshine in the Sunshine State, however. While vacation home mortgage applications are up in many areas in Florida, primary home mortgage applications are actually down in nearly all of the top 15 counties.

Of particular interest is Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale. While this area experienced an impressive 17% increase in vacation home mortgage applications, it also saw primary home mortgage applications fall 11%.

In fact, the only county that didn’t experience a decrease in primary home mortgage applications was Miami-Dade, whose application numbers remained virtually unchanged from 2019.

In Orlando, there was decreased interest in both vacation homes and primary homes, with 18% and 16% declines, respectively.

What Changed From 2019?

Even in areas where mortgage applications declined, all of these 15 Florida counties still maintained strong interest from buyers looking to purchase a vacation property in 2020.

2020 was also an interesting year for real estate across the U.S., due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial and real estate markets. This could help account for the increases we’re seeing in home prices as well as the declining interest in certain areas compared to 2019.

Key Takeaways

Unsurprisingly, the most popular counties for vacation home purchases – the ones at the top of our top 15 list – are coastal areas. This makes sense; if you’re going to buy a vacation home, you may as well do so in a vacation destination, or at least somewhere that has a decent beach.

In all of our top 15 counties, the median home sale price increased. In many cases, prices increased by quite a bit, especially compared to home prices for the entire U.S: from 2019 – 2020, the median sale price for homes sold in the U.S. rose just 2%.

So, is now the time to buy if you’re considering a second home in Florida? It’s hard to tell whether prices will hold steady, keep increasing or experience a dip, but with mortgage rates continuing to trend at an all-time low, it could make sense for potential buyers in Florida to take the leap now rather than later.

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    Molly Grace

    Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.